Recruiting and retaining a diverse faculty


Recently, I called on a number of individuals from across the campus community for their help in considering how we might move ahead in our efforts to recruit and retain a diverse faculty. The intent of convening the working group was not to initiate work in this area, because a good deal of work is already going on, but to take a more comprehensive look at this important issue from multiple perspectives. My charge to the group was to identify the issues and opportunities that need to be managed in order to create a comprehensive strategy. It was not the group’s responsibility to actually “solve the problem,” but to identify the elements that have to be part of a strategy as we move ahead:  What do we need to do? What has to happen to move forward? Are there ideas, programs, or initiatives from other places that should be reviewed and considered for MSU?

The working group began meeting in mid-January and worked swiftly to submit a report to me by mid-February. Their recommendations focus on seven main areas:

  • Broaden Inclusion Perspective
  • Infrastructure Enhancement
  • Leadership for Diversity
  • Intellectual/Creative Disparity
  • Training on Bias Reduction
  • Mentoring of Diverse Faculty
  • Funding

With their recommendations in mind, my plan is to initially move forward in two areas:  Mentoring of Diverse Faculty and Leadership for Diversity.

The report from the working group points out the need to know more about the implementation and impact of mentoring policies across departments. It also points out that faculty from underrepresented groups can face difficulty when attempting to find a mentor in their department, that faculty are not rewarded for their mentoring activity in the current system, and that mentors and mentees have limited resources dedicated to their support. The report emphasizes that all discussions of mentoring, at all levels, need to focus on the goals of mentoring. To address these concerns, the group proposes a number of action items, all of which I will consider. 

The group’s report also notes how crucial it is for the University to adopt a “transformative leadership approach that seeks to embed the value of diversity and inclusion throughout its operations and practices.” It emphasizes the need to address the relative decline in underrepresented populations, for both faculty and students. To address these concerns, the group proposes a number of action items as well, which I will consider.

One step we’ve already taken is becoming a member of the National Center for Faculty Development and Diversity, a service we’ve subscribed to for some time. As a result of the working group’s report, we’re more committed than ever to making this professional development, training, and mentoring community available for faculty who want to take advantage of its services. An informational email from Paulette Granberry Russell, Director of the Office for Inclusion & Intercultural Initiatives, and Terry Curry, Associate Provost and Associate Vice President for Academic Human Resources, will soon be detailing how to access and utilize this service.

As we continue our work in these two initial areas, I will again call upon the assistance of those in the campus community for their help in implementation. I am optimistic that we will be able to take swift action and make notable progress, given our collective resources. As new working groups and plans of action emerge, I will provide updates here, via my website.

My sincere thanks to those who served on the initial working group (listed below) for helping MSU find ways to make progress in this critical area. I know all of these individuals were extremely busy and I appreciate them so generously sharing their time, energy, and insights—especially in such a short period of time during which they were maintaining their scholarly responsibilities. The University will benefit from their conscientious work, both in the short-term and in the coming years.

  • DeBrenna Agbényiga, Convener
  • Andy Amalfitano
  • Ellen Cushman
  • Kristie Dotson
  • Patricia Edwards
  • Lisa Fine
  • Rubén Martinez
  • Melissa McDaniels
  • Suresh K. Mukherji
  • Jesenia Pizarro
  • David Rayl
  • Tyrone Rooney
  • Rob Roznowski
  • Isis Settles
  • Jyotsna G. Singh
  • Karen Patricia Williams